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History of Henry & Fulton Counties
edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich - Syracuse NY - Publ. D. Mason & Co.


Chapter XX.
pg. 227

     EVERYWHERE we turn we are bewildered by the fire of 1847.  Even the record of the civil organization of the townships cannot be found.  It is known, however, that Freedom was one of the first of the five townships organized in the territory now composing Henry county; that it, the Napoleon township, in 1840, included nearly, if not all the said territory north of the Maumee River together with all the Fulton county, which was organized in 1850.  At that time, with all of its territory, it had a population of only one hundred and five.  By the organization of Fulton county, there was left to Freedom township not even the originally surveyed territory - two tiers of sections having been taken from the north and given to Fulton county; and there is now left to Freedom township but twenty-four sections of land.  Notwithstanding this, the township has had a wonderful growth both in population and valuation.  In 1850 it contained four hundred and sixty souls, and the taxable valuation of the property amounted to $27,602.  In 1860 the population, with greatly diminished territory, was four hundred and fifty and the valuation $71,697.  In 1870 the population was eight hundred and twelve, and the valuation of land $85,279.  In 1880 the census showed twelve hundred and thirty-five population, and the land was valued for taxation at $230,480.
     The township is situated in the northern part of Henry county. It bounded on the north by Fulton county, on the east by Liberty township, on the south by Napoleon township and on the west by Ridgeville township.  The topography is that in common with the balance of the county, level, and the soil exceedingly good and fertile.  The township is devoid of waterways, with the exception of three small creeks, the largest being Napoleon Creek and Oberhaus Creek.  These traverse nearly the whole width of the township.  Through the southwest corner of the township runs the bed of the defunct Coldwater and Mansfield Railroad.
     The early settlers of this section were few; not more than a score lived in the township prior to 1860; among those who did live in this part of the county, from 1838 to 1850, may be mentioned Daniel Shinaman, John Miller, Samuel and Lewis Eckhart, John Sorrick, John Knapp, Harmon Kline, junior and senior, Conrad Clay, George Struble, John Harmon and Benjamin Holler.
The first school house ever erected in this township was one of unhewed logs, a very primitive and small building.  It stood in what is now section twenty-eight.  Daniel Shinaman, John Harmon, Benjamin Holler and Harmon Kline were the builders.
     The first church was a United Brethren.  It was built in 1852, or thereabouts, and also stood in section twenty-eight.  Here the settlers from far and near would congregate on Sabbath day and listen to the Word of God interpreted by George Struble.
     The township is, as far as is possible to learn, devoid of many of those stirring incidents which make the life of the settler exciting, and for this reason facts of record can only be dealt with, "pleasing incidents of frontier life" will be conspicuous by their absence.  And we will proceed to what the township was after the year 1860; not that it was civilized by this time, but because the facts are within our grasp.
     From 1860 up to the present time there has been an influx of Germans to this county, and especially to Freedom township.  To this frugal people may be given a great deal of the credit of converting a wilderness into a garden for the reason that they were not choice as to the kind of land Uncle Sam gave them, and whether a swamp or ridge it was the same to them and they went to work.  Now Freedom township is a model of well-kept farms; now there are six fine school-houses, a couple of churches and scores of brick dwellings.  The first one was built by Harmon Kline and the others followed thick and fast, and now as one rides through the county, a palatial brick residence, well kept grounds - a sure sing of thrift and wealth - is an ordinary sight.
     Although this township is not a locality for pioneer reminiscences it has a history which entitles it to the name of the "dark and bloody ground of Henry county," three persons having been murdered by the pretended friends of the victims, for the sole purpose of gain.
     The Murder of W. W. Treadwell - On July 14, 1864, Math. Bowen while walking through the woods near what was known as the little Red School-house, suddenly came upon a body of a man.  The body had evidently lain for some time as the birds of prey, and decomposition, had so disfigured the remains that identification was well-nigh impossible.  Two bullet-holes were found in the skull, the bullet evidently entering just back of the right ear, and coming out above the right eye.  The right side of the head was also beaten with a club, which was found near by.  On his person was found a number of trifles, together with an upper set of false teeth, on a heavy gold plate; seven dollars in bills and some eatables.  Some weeks later a report came from Adrian, Mich., saying that two men had escaped from the jail there.  The description of one of the men tallied with that of the murdered man.  Investigation was at once begun, and it was learned that the name of the murdered man was W. W. Treadwell, formerly a banker of Hudson, Mich., who had been confined in the Adrian jail for operations not exactly legitimate.  The man with whom he escaped was incarcerated for horse stealing.  His name was John Crowell, and he was subsequently arrested in Sandusky, tried and bound over, and on the 10th of May, 1865, his trial begun with Hon. A. S. Latty on the bench.  The facts disclosed were as follows:  Treadwell having secured large loans from other banks, absconded, was arrested in Mansfield, O., taken back, tried, convicted, and remanded in jail to await sentence.  Crowell was arrested in Erie county, this State, for stealing horses in Michigan, tried and convicted at the same term of court as Treadwell was, and also remanded.  In jail they were put together, and at five o'clock on the 1st of July escaped.  Identification of the two men now became an easy matter; they traveled through the northern part of the county inquiring for lost cattle.  The club now became in important factor, and every witness pointed it out as being carried by Crowell.  The chain of evidence was quickly woven around him.  The identification of Treadwell was established beyond a doubt.  The object of the crime was $900 in the possession of Treadwell.  The sum having been given to him by his wife shortly before his escape.  It was all in $100 bills, and the most of them upon the bank of Rochester.  One of these Rochester bills was found upon Crowell.
     On Monday, May 15, 1865, the case was given to the jury; an hour later, came the verdict of "guilty."  A motion for a new trial was made but denied.  Judge Latty then sentenced Crowell to be hanged on Friday, the 11th of July, 1865.
     The execution was under the direction and charge of O. E. Barnes, who was then sheriff.  While making preparations for the execution, and even upon the scaffold, the prisoner was the most collected of all present.  Upon the scaffold the sheriff asked him if he had anything to say before the sentence of the court was executed, and he replied, "No sir, I am guilty."  The sheriff asked him if he wished it understood that he was guilty of the crime for which he stood condemned.  Crowell replied slowly and distinctly, "Yes sir, my punishment is just."  He then knelt with his spiritual adviser, Father Carroll, after which the pinioning, placing of the cap, etc., was proceeded with, and all the time Crowell showed the least emotion of any present.  At sixteen minutes before 1 P.M., the trap was sprung, and John Crowell had expiated his crime.
     The Murder of George Williams and Wife.  The second murder was the one of George Williams and wife, by Wesley Johnson, on October 23, 1883, the details of which are as horrible as any instance of the kind in the State.
     On the evening of October 25, 1883, Addison Crew, a farmer living near the farm of George Williams, had occasion to go to the Williams' place.  On first going to the barn his eye met a ghastly sight.  There, upon the floor he saw the lifeless body of George Williams, with head split open, and throat cut from ear to ear.  He raised a cry and with several others went to the house, where, upon the floor of their sleeping room, lay the body of George Williams's wife, terribly mutilated.  Upon the bed was a nearly famished infant.  From the state of the bodies it was supposed that they had lain in this state for several days.  Suspicion immediately fell upon Wesley Johnson,  a young man in the employ of John Williams, because of his behavior, and the hour he retired two or three nights previously.  He was arrested but stoutly maintained his innocence.  But proof was not lacking, and at the preliminary examination, there was proof enough to bind him over.  His trial began in January, 1884, and long will it be remembered as the most exciting trial ever witnessed in the county, and during the whole trial, Johnson's demeanor was that of a statue, showing no emotion or feeling.  When, on the evening of February 12, 1884, the jury brought in a verdict of "guilty," there was a general "amen."
     The case was conducted for the State by prosecuting attorney R. W. Cahill and J. M. Haag; for the defense Messrs. Martin Knupp and William H. Hubbard.  Judge J. J. Moore presided.  He was sentence on the 16th of February to be hanged on the 29th of May, 1884.
     The execution was conducted by Frederick Aller, then sheriff, and took place in the jail.  With the same nerve that marked Crowell, Johnson  displayed, he ascending the scaffold with the same fearless step.  When the sheriff asked if his punishment was just, he answered "yes."  At 10 A.M. the trap was sprung, and Johnson's soul was dangling in the balance, and his body between heaven and earth.




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